Presenting Your Ideas Clearly

Tips for Organizing Your Thoughts and Communicating Your Concepts

How many times have you come up with a great idea only to receive a lukewarm response – or worse, no reaction at all?

We all want to communicate our ideas in a way that generates positive feedback, encourages others to join our cause, or helps us further our personal or professional agendas.

The way to do it successfully is through organization and planning. Planning causes us to put intention into our ideas, allowing us to purposefully follow a defined process. Organization creates structure. Structure helps our audiences-the people to whom we must communicate our ideas-to grasp our concepts, understand the flow of our thinking, and buy-in to the actions we present to them.

To get started, write down all of the details of your idea – big and small – on note cards. These are the details that make up your big idea. Then create structure by organizing the details by using one or more of these proven organizational methods:

• Deductive – First, put down your central idea. Next, put down the most compelling reasons for the idea, and follow with the points that will convince your audience of each major premise.

• Inductive – Cluster your details into groups that work together, and see how they form a structure that supports your overall idea.

• Problem-Solution – Organize your thoughts according to your response to the following questions:

  • Does your anticipated audience perceive that there is a problem, and do they perceive the problem in the same way and to the same degree that you perceive it?
  • Do you want to invite your audience to discover and evaluate their own solutions? Or, do you prescribe a recommendation as part of your presentation? Are there competing solutions needing evaluation?

• Whole-Part-Whole (Macro-micro-Macro) – Present the big picture. Then identify which details help summarize the separate parts. And finally, direct attention back to the big picture.

• Chronological Order – Use the details of the present to explain your idea and implementation, or use the future to highlight outcomes, benefits and long-term impacts of your idea. Follow a time line that puts each point you identify into perspective chronologically.

• Cause-Effect – First, organize your thoughts by cause and effect; then consider the value of the counterintuitive vantage point.

• Logistical – Start from a fixed point that makes sense to you and those to whom you will present. If there is a controlling or limiting factor that inhibits your idea, consider making this the starting point. Then follow an order that you can physically take your idea through from point to point.

• Before and After – Determine the “before” situation, then present the “after” condition based on your idea.

• Simple to Complex – Organize your details from easy to difficult, moving in a pattern that is better understood by your audience. This also helps you to see any missed steps.

For any of these organizational structures, when you have note cards (idea details) that do not fit within the structure you choose to present to one audience, set them aside rather than discard them. You may need them for a different organizational structure in order to present to a different audience. They may also be more appropriate to use for a different idea you are sure to have.

The next time you have a big idea with a lot of details, take the time to organize your thoughts in a way that will communicate well with your audience. If your profession or area of interest has adopted a different system of review or hypothesis testing than was presented here, it may be best to maintain that familiar pattern. Consider the benefits of using the organizational structure that best helps your idea shine!

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